The best sunscreens that are also safe – a review of how effective they are, how well they go on your skin, and their smell
It’s no secret that it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen when you’re out in the sun, and with the 4th of July next week, you’ll probably be out in the sun (hopefully!)
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you why wearing sunscreen is a good idea and the harmful effects that too much sun exposure can have on your body. But in case you live under a rock (and subsequently don’t know about sunlight), then we’ll go over those things real quick…
Too much sun can cause cancer, lead to skin damage (wrinkles, sun spots, etc.), and sunburn is totally miserable
Recently, I spent a few days at Grayton Beach and used a sunscreen that I thought would do its job. Unfortunately, this sunscreen was not as honest as it claimed to be and everyone who used it got fried. Like lobster red. It was so frustrating, especially since we reapplied and made sure to cover our bodies in sunscreen. I actually put a few different sunscreens on my body, and the only place I got burned was where I used the “honest” sunscreen. Ugh!
After that experience, I decided that I wanted to do an experiment in sunscreen. Obviously, the effectiveness of the sunscreen is number one, but what about smell, texture, and what it looks like on your skin?
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I am pretty conscious about the beauty products I use. What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in your body. Your skin is the largest organ you have, so it’s obviously pretty significant.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to go loco if I use something that doesn’t get a score of 1 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® website (this is a website where they rate the safety of ingredients – I encourage you to check it out and see what your favorite beauty products and toiletries rate).
However, I think it’s important to be informed and know what I’m putting on my body, similar to reading an ingredients label on food about what I’m putting in my body. Basically, I try my hardest to use products that don’t have potentially harmful effects on my body.
K, so now I’m gonna hop off my soapbox and get back into sunscreens. After hours, and I mean hours, of researching sunscreens, I decided to test out 5 sunscreens and 3 stick sunscreens. I wanted to test out ones that I already use and love and then a few new ones.
How did I decide which ones to use? First, I went to the EWG’s website dedicated to sunscreen and researched each one on Amazon. Yes, every single one. I read all the reviews and decided on 5 sunscreens and 3 stick sunscreens that rated as a 1 on the EWG website (meaning it has the least harmful ingredients) and had to provide excellent UVA protection + excellent/good UVB protection. Oh, and it had to have good ratings/reviews on Amazon and not be really expensive.
You should be using enough sunscreen to cover your body and reapply every few hours, so I tried to find sunscreens that weren’t outrageously expensive. And you can purchase them easily online (links included).
I’ll be rating them on protection, application scent, scent after wear, consistency/how it looks on your skin, and overall thoughts. I spent 5 days with all the different sunscreens on different body parts and took notes. I also had my trusty helper as our sunscreen model. After over 5 days of testing, I noticed no significant difference in the effectiveness of the sunscreens. They all did a great job for skin protection. This is why I included all of them, and why they all say 10/10 for effectiveness.
And now, I bring you my favorite sunscreens:
Application Scent: not my favorite. Ok, so I have a super strong sense of smell. Everyone else thought it smelled fine and some even said it smelled good. I felt like it smelled like a funny smelling soap.
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: not too thick, rubs in like a lotion and most of the white tint fades away
Scent after use: still not my favorite. In fact, I could only use it on my legs. However, no one else agreed with me that they didn’t like the scent.
Overall: I was the only one in my family that didn’t love this one. All the kids liked it, especially because the bottle turns blue in the sunlight. It works well but does show a little white on your skin when you sweat.
Application Scent: the best sunscreen smell ever! Lavender is quite possibly my favorite lotion scent and they nailed it on this one.
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: thick! Definitely leaves a white tint to skin and takes a good bit of rubbing in to get it to absorb.
Scent after use: smelled like nothing (which I love. I hate sunscreen smells)
Overall: Honestly, I was a little disappointed in this sunscreen. The smell going on and the protection factor were great. But the consistency was thick thick thick, and it took quite a while to rub in leaving a white tint on your body. After a while, the whiteness fades but it does show some whiteness when your skin sweats or gets wet. I was so sad but it wasn’t my favorite. I will still use it but likely won’t buy it again.
Application Scent: neutral smell
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: normal consistency. Takes a second to rub in but definitely rubs in faster than the other sunscreens.
Scent after use: smells pretty neutral. If you’re really trying to smell it, then you’ll find a slight sunscreen smell but other than that, it is quite neutral.
Overall: this one is tied as my favorite. I use this one pretty much everyday because it has such a neutral scent and light-feeling coverage while protecting me like crazy.
Application Scent: loved this tropical smell. It doesn’t smell like that gross fake tropical sunscreen smell. It just has a nice light scent that everyone enjoyed.
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: not too thick. Takes a second to rub in, like all natural sunscreens do, but it does sink in pretty quick.
Scent after use: still smells good. It obviously smells like you have on sunscreen because most people aren’t wearing tropical smelling lotion on the reg, but it smells great.
Overall: this one was definitely one of my favorites! It is the most budget friendly at $2.67 per ounce (according to current Amazon pricing).
Application Scent: neutral scent
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: rubs in like a champ. It has a slightly more oily texture which I like because it absorbs faster. It doesn’t run as much when you sweat or your skin comes in contact with water.
Scent after use: smells slightly like sunscreen
Overall: this one is tied as my favorite. I realize that it is a little bit more expensive than the others but I love it too much to skip it. It’s one that the whole family can enjoy, and it works really well
I know that reapplication doesn’t always happen which is why I love the stick sunscreens because they are so easy to apply no matter when or where. I only tested 3 because, honestly, I felt tired after the amount of research I did for sunscreen lotions that I literally couldn’t search anymore. Plus, there aren’t a ton of sunscreen sticks out there.
Application Scent: smells like apples
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: goes on easily, not too thick but nice coverage
Scent after use: doesn’t smell like anything
Overall: I liked this one a lot. This one was a big hit with the kids because they loved the scent, and sunscreen sticks are more fun to apply than being covered in lotion (which means you have to get out of the sun and dry off, etc.)
Application Scent: I really didn’t love the way this smelled
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: left an obvious white tint on the skin
Scent after use: the smell kind of went away but having it on your face (right under your nose) made the scent I didn’t love linger a little longer
Overall: this wasn’t terrible but it was my least favorite. It still offered great protection but I likely won’t be buying it after I’ve used it all
Application Scent: a slightly sweet but not overwhelming scent
Consistency/How it Looks on Skin: rubs in well, no white tint
Scent after use: no scent
Overall: My favorite. I keep this in my purse because it’s so small, but it has a nice wide stick for quicker coverage. I use this all the time and it lasts quite a while
A few things to know:
Don’t be tricked into thinking that a sunscreen with a really high SPF provides more protection. Reapplication is the best way to get additional protection. Don’t waste your time with the sunscreens with super high SPF. Aim for around 15 to 40.
Staying in shade and wearing sun protective clothing are both really helpful in preventing sun damage. Staying out of the sun is your best method for preventing sun damage. If you don’t have to be in the direct sun, try to stay out of it, specifically avoiding direct sun exposure between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
I have a really strong sense of smell and smell is really important to me protect yourself in the sun, preferably with ingredients that aren’t harmful to your body. Try to stay out of the direct sunlight as much as possible, and don’t forget that clothing can provide sun protection as well.
You can get sun exposure even when you’re not at the beach. I love this Beautycounter Tinted Moisturizer for my daily sunscreen. It’s a moisturizing lotion that provides light, tinted coverage. I heart it! and I constantly wear this lip balm because it smells delish and keeps my lips moisturized and protected yay!
What are your favorite sunscreens?
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